While many of the best-known domaines and vineyards of Saumur lie along the première côte, the limestone edifice that faces out onto the Loire at Dampierre-sur-Loire, Souzay-Champigny and Parnay, this strip of vineyard does not dominate the appellation in the way the première côte does elsewhere, say in Vouvray. Perhaps this is because here, on the south bank of the river, the vineyards that teeter on the edge of the limestone plateau do not enjoy the same south-facing aspect as the those on the opposite bank. Indeed, around Saumur, perhaps the most renowned domaines are to be found quite distant from the river, in the strip of vineyard that runs south away from Saumur, through Varrains, Chacé and Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg down to Brézé. Here the landscape is more complex, as although underfoot it is still almost exclusively Turonian limestone and clay, the land gently undulates, giving local vignerons a varied, multifaceted topographical palette to work with.
Just to the west of Brézé there lies a little isthmus of land between the Thouet, which runs north to drain into the Loire at Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, and the Ancien Canal de la Dive, built to carry the grains and cereals of Anjou down to the Loire but which upon completion in 1834 had already been made redundant by the railways. Here, in the commune of Saint-Just-sur-Dive, we find an isolated pocket of viticulture, an island of vines cut off by these two waterways. The only village of note here is Mollay, and although not as famous as Brézé, Varrains or Chacé there is still a strong history of viticulture and winemaking here. One or two of the street names, most notably the Rue du Pressoir and the Impasse du Cabernet tell us this much.
The Impasse du Cabernet is a narrow side-street which ends abruptly, seemingly closed off by iron gates of a pale green hue. In fact what lies beyond, a courtyard surrounded on all four sides, is private property. Although there are no signs informing us as to the identity of the inhabitant, that this is a wine domaine is not difficult to determine; walking down the impasse for the first time I could see, sitting within the courtyard, a tall stainless steel vat, no doubt recently delivered and awaiting transfer into the cellars. Having said that there are few other clues, no stacks of bottles, no rusting ploughs. Within the courtyard there is nothing; it is a haven of peaceful tranquility, the silence only broken by the chirruping of the house martins that whirl overhead, taking insects on the wing. No doubt during harvest it is a very different place, a hive of noisy bustling activity, all directed by the young proprietor. He is named Romain, and this is Domaine Guiberteau.